THE MBF prefix of Waterford producers Meabh Bolger and Brian Flynn was carried to victory by two Irish Sport Horse geldings at last Saturday’s fourth leg of the 2022 Horse Sport Ireland affiliate combined training challenge in Barnadown.

Second at Wexford Equestrian the previous weekend, Bolger and MBF Back To Back returned to the Model county on Saturday to claim the EI110 qualifier on their winning dressage score of 23.8 penalties. Nicola Ennis and Dawn Arrival (27.8) were their nearest challengers throughout in a very strong field of 19 starters of whom nine left all the fences intact.

While MBF Back To Back picked up Show Jumping Ireland points as both a four and five-year-old and featured in the early stages of the 2021 Stepping Stones to Success League, he also had a very well-planned first season’s affiliated eventing last year.

The 2016 Metropole gelding had six starts under Bolger at EI100 level, winning four times and placing third and fourth on the other two occasions. Their eventing campaign concluded in late August at Tattersalls where, a day after she had won the Mo Chroi four-year-old show jumping championship at the RDS on MBF Celtic Claddagh, Bolger guided MBF Back To Back to victory in the final of the Irish Sport Horse Studbook EI100 series for five-year-olds, also winning the league itself.

MBF Back To Back was bred in Co Wexford by Liam Duffin out of the Iroko mare Aughmore Irokos Dream, a half-sister to the leading intermediate working hunter pony, Country Strong (by Mermus R) and from the family of Bay My Hero (CCI4*), etc.

Dawn Arrival too was returning to Wexford as this ex-track performer by Dawn Approach was bred at his Redmondstown Stud in Oylegate by leading racehorse trainer Jim Bolger. The eye-catching chesnut failed to worry the judge in two outings for his breeder as a juvenile nor did he when running out of the Garry Caldwell yard at three and four. He last ran at Gowran in early May 2019.

The now seven-year-old had one outing in an EI100 for five-year-olds at the end of 2020 but made 12 appearances last season. Well-placed throughout the campaign, when he also took in Derby competitions and ex-racehorse classes, Dawn Arrival’s season ended with a win in the EI110 for six-year-olds at Punchestown in October.

As MBF Back To Back was already qualified for the Challenge final, Saturday’s third-place pairing of India Rogers and Ian Ashman’s 14-year-old Guidam gelding Hollybrook Star (29 penalties) booked the second ticket on offer.

Ennis on the board

Nicola Ennis wasn’t long in achieving success as she landed the 24-runner EI100 qualifier on MBF Silver Bridge who was left in front on his flat work mark (27.5 penalties). The dressage leader, the Michael O’Toole-ridden Beechdale Jago, who won at Wexford Equestrian the previous weekend, had a pole down show jumping for a fourth-place total of 28.8.

As his name would suggest, the winning 2017 Silvano gelding was at one stage in the care of Bolger and Flynn who sold him as three-year-old to his United States-based owner, Carrie Meehan (Gold To Blue Sporthorses). She left the bay with them until he was broken after which he moved up to Co Meath and has since been produced by Ennis.

The combination finished second in the Stepping Stones four-year-final and league last season, behind Ennis’s sister Sarah and Ardeo Grand Slam, before contesting the Young Eventhorse Series. There, having won the opening leg at Tullylish, they placed second in the league and were third in the RDS national championship final at Lambertstown in mid-August.

MBF Silver Bridge, who was bred in Co Kilkenny by John Murphy, is out of My Rochestown Lady, an unraced thoroughbred mare by Beneficial.

Ciara Power, another rider well-regarded as a producer of young horses, filled the runner-up slot for the second week in a row on Rossmount Aldi Hero (28.3). As this six-year-old Celtic Hero Z mare had already booked her place in the final, the second qualifying ticket was awarded to the third-placed finishers of Louise Bloomer and her 11-year-old home-bred Puissance mare, Hollybrook High Maintenance (28.5).

In the 18-strong EI90 qualifier, the honours went to Co Cork’s Emily Acton who led throughout on Nina Costa’s Gtown Dusty Knuckles (29.8 penalties). Acton, who with partner Wayne Santry runs the Wild Atlantic Sport Horses yard on the Old Head of Kinsale, bred the five-year-old OBOS Quality 004 gelding out of a Glidawn Diamond mare.

Bloomer qualified

Here, Louise Bloomer qualified by right of finishing second with her own Shannondale Levi (30.3), a five-year-old Shannondale Sarco St Ghyvan full-brother to her CCI4*-S ride, Shannondale Icarus, on whom she was third at last year’s Stepping Stones final, filling the same position in the YES! Four-year-old league.

Bloomer’s brother Gerald also secured a ticket for the Challenge final when finishing second in the EI80 qualifier on the ex-racehorse Ballydrummond (28.8 penalties). This six-year-old Valirann gelding pulled up in his sole point-to-point outing in December 2020 before finishing well down the field on his only start over hurdles the following month.

The winner of the 12-runner class was the four-year-old ISH gelding Shirsheen Rocketman (27.3) who topped the leaderboard throughout under his owner, Linda Murphy. A son of the hugely influential OBOS Quality 004, the bay was bred by Andrew Hodgins out Mangerton Lady Saoirse, a Concorde half-sister to the Chacoa mare, Princess of Mediterranean (CSI3*).

Challenge qualifiers take place today at The Meadows and tomorrow at Roscrea EC with the seventh and last leg scheduled for Sunday next, March 6th, in Claremorris EC. As usual, unless previously qualified, in which case the ticket will be passed down, the first two in each class will qualify for the final in CoilÓg on Sunday, March 13th.